The Statistics Story

June 9, 2011

Elizabeth Clark is an Economist  in the International Trade Administration‘s Office of Trade Industry Information.

Economists, journalists, Wall Street executives and main street businesses as well as consumers look at a variety of economic indicators and data for information on how the economy is doing. The indicators above give us an idea of how our manufacturing sector is fairing, in good times and bad it’s these economic indicators that help to keep us on our toes and ready to take advantage of an increasingly global marketplace.

Looking at today’s trade in goods and services numbers will show you a pretty good story about the state of America’s manufacturing sector. For instance, in the first four months of 2011, U.S. exports of manufacturing products increased by $56.9 billion (16.5 percent) to reach $401.4 billion up from $344.5 billion recorded in the first four months of 2010. Major growth categories by value in the first four months of 2011 include petroleum and coal products (up 66.2%), basic chemicals (up 21.0%), nonferrous metal products (up 34.7%), motor vehicles (up 19.2%), and agricultural and construction machinery (up 25.4%).

While those numbers are impressive, they only tell a portion of the story.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2011, average hourly earnings in manufacturing were rising, up 0.1 percent from previous month, and up 1.8 percent from May 2010. Additionally, manufacturing sector productivity rose 4.2 percent in the first-quarter of 2011, as output increased 7.7 percent and hours increased 3.3 percent.

The International Trade Administration provides valuable data and resources on trade statistics, including state and metro export data, profiles of exporting companies, a bi-weekly manufacturing report, as well as a nifty mapping tool that allows you to see the geographic reach of our exports by product or state. http://www.trade.gov/mas/ian/tradestatistics/index.asp

Information is golden and having the tools at your fingertips to sift through the relevant information and make sense of it yourself is a powerful advantage.


  1. The value of the US dollars is a huge factor when it comes to US exports of manufacturing products. It is more interesting for other countries to buy US products now that their dollars have an equivalent or greater value vs US dollars. This is a good news for the economy in general.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Hi Phil,
    You got a point there but again when the dollar is weak, everything will be more expensive especially imported items. Look at your house, how many chinese and japanese product lying around? I’d rather that the goverment increase taxes for imported items to make it unattractive to buy.

  3. Diet,

    We’re flooded with cheaper products from abroad, which in turn zap the competiveness of their U.S. made counterparts and the jobs that go with them. That’s why they may decide to pack-up and move off-shore to Mexico or Vietnam, or any number of cheap labor locales. In any case we’re left with low-wage jobs to stock the shelves with these foreign-made goods.

    by Starving

  4. Every currency in the world is on the downturn. At present we all just need to keep our heads down and try and ride out the storm. Maybe in a year or two we can look and see how our finances are.

  5. Due to our economy and the recent unemployment rates (me included), I decided it was time for my family to start getting back to basics on food essentials, so we started our own garden only to find out there are now laws against that! I’m not sure if that means we can’t grow our own food or just sell it? Either way, we just want to eat was nature has provided so we’ll stop spending so much money on imported foods and the dreaded fast foods.

    Not sure when our economy will turn around and with all that’s possibly coming next month, it should be an interesting end to a very interesting year!


    • I did not know there were laws governing a personal garden. I have a nice sized garden and a small backyard greenhouse to drop my families grocery expense, including the imported foods. I do my own canning and preserving of the fruits and veggies. I do not sell any of it though.

  6. Paleo,

    Great idea,as your name suggests,turning back to basics especially foods will help us to stop spending on those fast foods,imported goods and unnecessary things.Budgeting is the challenge to me now.

  7. If, as D. Trump says, we stop getting cheated on trade deals with the Chinese, maybe we could produce more products right here in the good old USA.

  8. The weaker US dollar relative to other currencies is not the trend as of late; the dollar and US long term debt prices have risen sharply. This will be tough on US exporters, especially when everyone globally including Japan and the Swiss are purposefully debasing their currencies compared to the US dollar. In the race to the bottom US dollar will not get there first! And along the way exporters in Japan and other countries, not just China, will enjoy the ride as long as some global demand exists.

  9. I beleive that it was early last century when the US goverment made a policy decision that they would make the Dollar the defacto world currency. An example of the benefits of this position is with oil, the far east extract the oil form the ground, the US prints dollars so they can buy the oil from the midlde east and this powers the US economy. Unortunatly as one of the other posters more or less said it is much easier for other countries to devalue thier currency against the dollar but the US can either be a global currency or devalue, it cannot be both.

  10. Only try statistics you have manipulated yourself … 😉

  11. The value of the dollar is crucial to the US manufacturing base. However, constant fluctuations create uncertainly and too many ups and downs in the market for US products.

  12. Made in USA products are usually better quality than Asian made products. The problem is, people want cheaper stuff so they choose to buy cheaper products imported from other countries.

  13. With the economic problems these days, people will tend to think twice before spending their hard earned money and might resort to buying cheaper products mostly made in China.

  14. It’s true that most of us really suffer because of economic crisis nowadays and it seems getting worst every passing years, that what’s making most of as getting alarmed. So far, I haven’t seen any resolution for it from our officials.

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